7 Quick Takes: The One with a New Year’s Christmas

Each week I post seven “quick takes” of things on my mind. Topics are typically related to our family happenings or things I’m into right now.

  1. We spent New Year’s Eve with Andy’s family. It’s become a tradition to play games and eat party food together to ring in the new year. There’s something about that particular holiday that feels so laid back, and I love it. We had a great time. Aria enjoyed it at least as much as Andy and I, because she got to spend the entire night playing with her cousins. We got around and went home as soon as midnight hit, because we had a big day planned for the first. Also because we had a two-year-old and a six-month-old out past midnight.
  2. We slept in a bit on the first, then packed the kids up and went back to Andy’s parents’ for our Christmas celebration. We had a lovely brunch, then opened gifts. It was really fun, and we all gave and received nice things. Aria was pleased with her toys (she’s generally pleased with things, really), and had a blast playing with her cousins again. Toward the end of the day things got a bit rough, because the kids were overly-tired. But then our family and Aria’s idolized cousin, Emma, were the last to leave. Once everyone else was gone, the girls sat, all by themselves, in the living room in a shared chair and played separately and very quietly next to each other. It was precious.
  3. I cannot believe I am back to work already! I had eight days off, and they flew past. Before the Christmas vacation each year, I feel as though the things I need to tackle in the new year are so far off, and then Рbam! Рthey hit incredibly quickly.
  4. I’ll probably spend most of the next week or so planning this year – work, blog, and personal. I would have liked to do most of that before January, but I didn’t get to it. I love to plan, so starting the year with some serious brainstorming and organizing sessions doesn’t bother me a bit.
  5. You might recall that I set a goal to read 60 books in 2013, then did so by August (what?!). So I set a new goal to read 80 books before the end of the year…and missed it by two. I didn’t try incredibly hard, though, I’ve gotta say. I’m sure I could have gotten two more books in, but I was already feeling plenty self-satisfied. ūüėČ So, I read 78 books this year. You can see the list here. I also read approximately five board books each day (though it was not five¬†different board books each day, of course). It was a good year reading-wise, both in number (not really that important, just fun), and content. I wrote a wrap-up post about content here. Also, I finished¬†The Thirteenth Tale after I wrote that post. It was a fantastic novel. I read every line, every word, and that’s unusual for me in a novel. I’m known to skim paragraphs if I lose interest, and I didn’t do that with this book.
  6. I am starting some significant new endeavors this year, which you will probably read a lot about on the blog. Three words: house, diet, work. I’ll write in detail in the next week or two.
  7. I am enjoying watching the kids play with their new toys. Aria has such an inquisitive, organized mind, and it’s a joy to watch her play. I am telling you, this thing where she’s two is fantastic so far. I anticipate a great year with her. Overall, Noah is increasingly interested in playing with things. At the moment he is teething, so he mostly just chews on everything. In fact, yesterday I was holding him close because he was fussy, and he turned his face in toward my arm…and bit. That was a first for me. I yelped, which resulted in him crying pretty hard. Anyhoo, he’s thisclose to several new skills, including mobility and sitting on his own, that will increase his interactions with toys. I’m looking forward to it!

The Best Books I Read in 2013

My Favorite Reads of 2013 ~ Plumfield Dreams

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My friend Sarah at All Manner of Inspiration is hosting an end-of-the-year linkup so we can all share our book lists from this year. I’m also linking up with Anne at Modern Mrs Darcy.

I read a lot of¬†great¬†books this year. Sometimes you just hit the jackpot, you know? I read a few total flops, too, but I’m not even going to bother listing those. I’d rather discuss the positive.

I hope you’ll join these linkups with your own post, and/or post in the comments here – I want to know what your favorite books of the year were. My TBR stack is never high enough. (Okay…you caught me…it toppled over a long time ago.)

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns)

I like memoirs (you’re going to notice that as you scroll through here). This one is fun and surprisingly insightful. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit of a snob, but I really didn’t expect much depth from this read, and I was pleased to find otherwise. I’ve also read Tina Fey’s¬†Bossypants, and I preferred Kaling’s musings and stories.

Babycatcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

Ooh, I loved this book. Vincent was a midwife for decades, getting in on the ground floor as the movement resurfaced. The book made me laugh and cry, and I reveled in all the lovely life.

Surprised by Oxford: A Memoir

I didn’t expect too much from this one. The title and cover appealed to me, but I couldn’t figure how it would be engaging enough that I would want to wade through it. I was wrong. (Hmm…three books so far, and I was wrong about two of them…this is concerning.) At any rate, this book is beautifully written, one to savor.

The Reading Promise: My Father and the Books We Shared

Another memoir! This is a quick read about a father and daughter who somehow managed to read aloud every evening from the time she was a young child to the day she went to college. Sweet and inspiring.

84, Charing Cross Road

This little charmer is a very quick read. I think I sailed through it in a couple of hours. It consists of letters sent back and forth between an American woman and the staff of a British bookstore in the years following WWII.

The Mission of Motherhood

I love Clarkson’s writings. When I read this book I felt as though I were sitting with a trusted and well-loved mentor, as she shared her wisdom in a conversational way. Clarkson lays the foundation for the why of intentional mothering, and then gives fantastic practical advice for how.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World

I’ve read something like a bazillion business and communication books, and this was one of the best. If you have something to say in this fast-paced, over-saturated world, I recommend you read this book.

Sparkly Green Earrings: Catching the Light at Every Turn

Oh, my. I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. (There I go again.) Shankle is FUNNY. I laughed, I cried, I laughed some more. And then again. I think this one will mostly appeal to moms.

Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

I read this while I was expecting Noah. Gaskin is full of wisdom and years of knowledge about pregnancy and childbirth. The first section of the book consists entirely of birth stories from patients at The Farm, told in their own words. Approximately the latter two-thirds of the book is Gaskin’s writings. I found the birth stories inspiring and reassuring as I anticipated my own natural birth, and I expect I will reread the entire thing for subsequent pregnancies.

Parenting from the Heights

I heard this mother/daughter writing team give an interview on a local radio station, and I like what they had to say, so I invested in their book about setting boundaries and teaching our children discipline with love. The ladies deflate popular, but ineffective, methods without fear. A good resource.

How Do You Kill 11 Million People?

The answer, in a nutshell, is lie to them. This is a quick read, and I highly recommend it to anyone, regardless of political or religious bent – the book is balanced, and it highlights something we all need to consider deeply.

My Ideal Bookshelf

A coffee table-style book of “ideal bookshelves” as described by a variety of people, celebrity and non-celebrity alike. The drawings are cool, and the insights into peoples’ thinking is interesting. The last page outlines a set of books, and invites the reader to create his/her own ideal bookshelf. I think I’ll do that on the blog one of these days. This is one to enjoy a page or two at a time.

A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

Boo Mama¬†writes one of the few blogs I will read in its entirety every single time she posts, regardless of the topic. She is hi-lar-i-ous, and oh, so real. Her book is beautiful, sweet and funny, a celebration of life. Read it for¬†the feels (as Boo Mama herself might say) (and then she’d write in multiple parenthetical statements, because she prides herself on being grammatically accurate like that).

Listening for Madeleine: A Portrait of Madeleine L’Engle in Many Voices

L’Engle was a fascinating, confusing woman. Her writings are interesting, whimsical, inspiring. And apparently, those who knew her often found her as confusing as I do. It’s interesting, then, that only one or two of the many remembrances in this compilation are not affectionate.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I reread this one for book club, and I’m glad I did. The book is a fairly easy read, and still has depth and beauty, and a wealth of information about a front in WWII I hadn’t known about (and I’ve read a lot, nonfiction and fiction, about WWII).


Finishing the Hat & Look, I Made a Hat

These beautiful coffee table books are a complete compendium of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics, with his own reflections on the songs and the shows for which he wrote them. A must for any musical theatre buff, particularly if you like Sondheim. (And I’m not sure you can be a musical theatre buff if you don’t like Sondheim.)

A Girl Named Zippy

Zippy grew up in my parents’ generation (or pretty close to it) in Indiana, the state in which I’ve resided my entire life. This is a beautiful ode to a bygone era. Also, it’s funny.

Fit to Burst: Abundance, Mayhem and the Joys of Motherhood

I LOVE this book, and the one that preceded it, Loving the Little Years. Jankovic is inspiring and challenging, pulling no punches in bite size chapters perfect for the busy mom who needs a reminder about why she is doing what she is doing.

The Fault in Our Stars

I’m probably one of the last people in the world to read this book, so you may not need me to tell you about it. And I’m not really going to, except to say that it’s about a teenager with cancer, and yeah, it’s sad, but it’s also funny and fun and you should read it. (That is, if you haven’t already.)

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Okay, this is the last of the “I didn’t think I’d like it this well” books. It’s well-written and engaging, and far smarter than I thought a book by actress Lauren Graham would be. (I know, I know – I really am a snob.)

The Greatest Gift

Ann Voskamp is one of my favorite writers. This advent book does not disappoint. If you weren’t one of the people who made it the #1 selling book on all of Amazon (how cool is that?! It’s an advent book!), I highly recommend you purchase it for next year. You can send me a thank you card next December. Oh, and buy the hardback – you want to hold this one in your hands.

The Women of Christmas

Higgs writes in such a chatty tone as she takes the reader through the Christmas story verse by verse. I love that. She goes into detail about the culture and history surrounding the story, taking what many would make dry and making it engaging. (Okay, I love that sort of thing, so I would find it interesting any way, but really, truly, I think any woman interested in the topic would enjoy it.)

What were your favorite reads of 2013?

Quick Takes: 25 Weeks, a Sick Child, and a Book Review

 BabyFruit Ticker

  • Reaching 25 weeks feels like a particularly big deal, though I’m unsure why that would be. 24 weeks is considered the marker at which a baby can survive outside the womb, and each day past that is a significant increase in survival rate. I don’t have any concerns, but it’s nice to know. 25 weeks…I don’t know. I guess I just like multiples of 5 or something. ūüôā I’ve been reading birth stories – I love them. Natural birth stories, that is, from here: Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. The entire first section of the book is birth stories told in the mothers’ own voices. I find it very soothing (which is the point, so…that’s good). I’ve also started doing the pregnancy exercises recommended in the Bradley Method – more on that in a future blog post. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s appointment with Stephanie, when I hope to discuss where I’ll be delivering.

  • I just finished reading¬†Sparkly Green Earrings¬†by Melanie Shankle.¬†It is hi-larious.¬†Occasionally I cringed because she just does not take life seriously at all, and I don’t get that. I have a good sense of humor, but I see life as a purposeful endeavor so sometimes she lost me with her happy-go-luckiness. I¬†particularly cringed at her take on childbirth (which went something like “I don’t care to understand anything, just bring on the meds and let’s get it over with”). Her approach is a common one in our culture, but I think it’s problematic and I hate to see it perpetuated, even when the writer is hysterically funny. But, okay, I can overlook that, and – did I mention this? – Shankle is FUNNY. She’s a Christian mommy blogger, and her book fits a lot of insight in a feather light package. If you are mommying a girl and you are interested in laughing out loud (and occasionally unexpectedly tearing up), I recommend this book.
  • In other reading news, here’s a glimpse at some of what I’m currently reading:

Book Stack

  • Aria has been sick since sometime Sunday night. I don’t know exactly when, because she was all quiet about it. I just know that when I went to get her up on Monday morning her entire crib was covered in vomit. I’ll spare you the details (you’re luckier than Andy, to whom I sent a picture – I don’t think he appreciated it), but it was gross. It was one of those moments where I just kind of stood there for a few seconds trying to absorb what I was seeing and what, exactly, I was supposed to do about it. Prior to last month Aria had not had more than a stuffy nose. Now we have both had the respiratory flu and (thank you so much for sharing) a stomach bug. I am feeling better this evening and I think she is also on the upswing. I hope.
  • I have not been doing very well with my Hello Mornings! commitment. It’s frustrating to me, because, you know, I committed to it. Also because I love tweeting with the ladies in the morning while we’re all studying the same passage. Between illnesses and being pregnant, early morning hours are not agreeing with me recently. For one reason or another I’m finding “early to bed, early to rise” extremely difficult right now. I’m still working on it, and I rest assured that the Lord is far less concerned about when I spend concentrated time talking to Him and reading His Word than He is with me just doing it at all. Sometimes I do “Hello Early Mornings!” and sometimes “Hello Late Mornings!” and sometimes “Hello Aria’s Afternoon Nap!”. It happens at some point in the day.

What about you? When do you have your “quiet time”? Are you consistent? (Do you have any magical advice for me?)

Quick Takes: 24 Weeks


Aria and her purses going to visit her dad in the bedroom.

  • Aria’s latest adorable thing is to carefully place both of her purses on her arm, tell us “Bye!” with a wave, and head for the door. She even goes so far as to pull herself up and try to open the door (it never works, since the doors are locked, but thank goodness for deadbolts because she’s caught on to the lock in the handle itself). This gather-my-purse-and-leave thing has just started happening this week, and has already expanded to include going for her purses (almost always both) as soon as she sees one of us putting on our coat. I find it particularly interesting because she has never seen me carry a normal purse, and I don’t think anyone has taught her to put her purse on her arm. Baby brains are the most fun.
  • This has been an exceptionally tiring week. It’s been fulfilling – I’ve accomplished quite a bit and had some really fun days. I may have pushed it a bit too hard, though, because I started falling asleep yesterday at around 5:30pm. I still have a list of things to accomplish before the weekend is over, and I’m trying to push through as many of them as possible early today so I can rest this evening and tomorrow. I used to find that rest might include doing some sedentary work I enjoyed, but that is less and less the case. Occasionally, yes. But I find that, for the most part, I need to create opportunities to rest both my body and my mind these days. I think it has something to do with the fact moms are usually thinking about at least two things at once, while they’re doing a third thing. ūüėČ
  • One week after taking my one-hour glucose test I had not heard anything from Stephanie’s office. I knew that most likely meant there were no problems, but given my history I didn’t want to make that assumption and then find out the lab didn’t send the report or something. So I called, and the midwife’s assistant, Megan, confirmed that, indeed, my iron and sugars are great. No three-hour test for this mama! I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. I am thrilled that I don’t have to take the three-hour test, and even more that it means there is no danger that I’m on the edge of having gestational diabetes this time. This pregnancy continues to be a wholly different experience from my first. I am taking each positive sign as yet another indicator that this time my delivery experience is going to be fantastic! (DO NOT disagree with me.)

 BabyFruit Ticker

¬†Don’t ask me why The Bump thinks the baby stays papya-sized for three straight weeks, as I have no idea.

  • This week I have started seeing some of the signs that we are moving toward the third trimester. If I push myself hard physically, I get Braxton Hicks contractions. At the end of a long day, my feet and hands are swollen. When I was pregnant with Aria, I was permanently swollen at this point. Not so this time around – rest and fluids eventually ease the swelling, and I’m still comfortably wearing my wedding ring. My back is also starting to feel some pressure, if I hold Aria on my hip for extended times, am on my feet too long, etc. These are all normal things, and they aren’t nearly as extreme as what I felt with Aria (see how much this is a theme?). All in all, I’m still quite comfortable and we’re all doing great.
  • I have become a list-making machine. One night early this week I woke up from what felt like a dead sleep with the thought that I have a LOT to do before July. At work we have a major event, for which I am primarily responsible, that will take place toward the end of my maternity leave. Thankfully, in my office work is shared however it needs to be to get things done, so I am not nervous about it. I just need to have as much as possible prepared before July, and everything else handed off to someone else so I can go on leave without stress (and without leaving anyone else in a panic). There is also quite a lot to accomplish at home before Noah arrives. In particular, I need to clean and organize the massive amount of stuff we are currently storing in the unused upstairs portion of the house. Construction workers have been here for the past three months adding an addition to the back of the house, installing several new windows throughout the upstairs, and putting new roofing and siding on the entire house. They are on the last phase (siding), and once they clear out we (that means Andy and his dad) will begin working on the inside. Before they can work on the inside, I need to get all our stored items out of the way and into the attic. It’s rather a large undertaking, because none of it is organized, and the construction guys just cut into the walls in those rooms, covering everything up there in a layer of dust. (I rather wish they had mentioned to me that I might want to cover my stuff. But, since by and large they’ve been great, I’ll let this one go.)
  • I am kicking butt at my reading goal for the year. Don’t ask me how this is happening, because I’m honestly not certain. Nevertheless, I have completed 21 books toward my goal of 60. Right now I have 10 books in the offing – I think that’s a new record for me – and I’m enjoying each of them. Left to my own devices I would typically read 2-3 books of varying genres at any given time. Right now I am reading books for devotional studies, church, work, pleasure, and childbirth prep. I’ve pretty much got things covered.

What are you reading?